Flame-throwing Susana still developing raw skills


Age on opening day 2024: 20

How acquired: Traded with MacKenzie Gore, CJ Abrams, James Wood, Robert Hassell III and Luke Voit from Padres for Juan Soto and Josh Bell in August 2022; originally signed as international free agent by Padres from Dominican Republic, January 2022

Ranking: No. 12 per MLB Pipeline, No. 10 per Baseball America

MLB ETA: 2025
* Projected by MLB Pipeline

Signing bonus: $1.7 million

2023 levels: Single-A Fredericksburg

2023 stats: 1-6, 5.14 ERA, 17 G, 17 GS, 63 IP, 56 H, 42 R, 36 ER, 3 HR, 40 BB, 62 SO, 6 HBP, 1.524 WHIP

Quotable: “I saw him for a brief moment. He's like a teddy bear. He really is. I talked to him. He seemed like kind of a bubbly guy. I didn't really say much to him. I just told him, 'Hey, I know you throw hard. And the biggest thing you need to understand is throwing strike one.' And I said, 'Hopefully, you continue to do that and do it well and we'll see you in the future.' But he's another good one.” – Nats manager Davey Martinez on talking to Jarlin Susana in spring training

2023 analysis: Susana has lit it up ever since the Padres signed him as the 17-year-old top pitching prospect of the 2022 international class. The Dominican Republic native didn’t even need to spend time in the Dominican Summer League and moved straight stateside to the Arizona Complex League, where he caught the attention of the Minor League Baseball world.

That included scouts with the Nationals, who liked what they saw from the right-hander so much they made sure he was included in the blockbuster Soto trade that August.

When he arrived in the Nats system, he continued to impress with his triple-digit fastball in the Florida Complex League and was promoted for three late-season starts with Fredericksburg, in which he struck out 13 in 10 ⅓ innings.

Susana started this season back at Fredericksburg, where he was considered one of the most intriguing pitching prospects in the Nats system. But the results did not live up to the hype that followed him entering the year.

In 17 games with the FredNats, all of which were starts, Susana went 1-6 with a 5.14 ERA and 1.524 WHIP. Over 63 innings this year, his hits-per-nine-innings rate (8.0) and walks-per-nine-innings rate (5.7) were well above what he posted over 45 innings last year. And his strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate (8.9) and strikeout-to-walk rate (1.55) were both down from last year while his homer-per-nine-innings rate stayed the same (0.4).

Susana’s struggles led to the Nationals placing him on the development list on Aug. 10 and having him finish the season at the team’s facility in West Palm Beach.

2024 outlook: Susana was the sticking point for general manager Mike Rizzo in his dealings with the Padres for Soto. Rizzo wanted him included with the four other prospects so badly he was willing to include Bell in the trade, which then meant Voit (originally Eric Hosmer, who exercised his no-trade clause) also had to come back to the Nats as a veteran first baseman.

Rizzo got the kid, who was by far the least experienced of the group but still had tremendous upside. The Nats now have the top pitcher and position player from the 2022 international class in Susana and Cristhian Vaquero.

The flamethrower’s heater is otherworldly. His fastball has touched 103 at Single-A. He usually throws it around 98-99 mph, and it’s already graded as a 75 on a 20-80 scale, per MLB Pipeline.

But Susana’s control and off-speed stuff still need a lot of improvement, hence his move to the development list to end the season. His slider is the only other above-average pitch in his arsenal, as it comes in around the low-90s and gets a lot of swings and misses because of its movement. His curveball and changeup complete his four pitches, but neither lives up to the fastball and slider yet.

With more development over the offseason and going into spring training, Susana hopes to see better results early next season as he looks to make his first significant steps up the Nats system.

With his 6-foot-6, 235-pound frame, Susana should be able to hold onto his velocity as he continues to develop. The question will be whether his off-speed pitches can catch up (figuratively, not literally, obviously) so he could be a big league starter someday. If not, he certainly could be a dominant reliever.

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